Co-op Students of the Year

Each year, we recognize three co-op students who have made outstanding achievements in their academic achievement, workplace performance and community involvement. Winners are announced in November.

One student is selected from each of our three major program areas:

  • Business
  • Engineering and Computer Science/Mathematics
  • Optional and Professional Programs (all other programs)

One recipient each year is also nominated for the provincial and national awards: the Association for Co-operative Education in British Columbia/Yukon (ACE) Student of the Year Award and the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE) Student of the Year Award.

2016 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2016 are:

About the students

Paul Kim

PAUL KIM (biochemistry)

Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Programs

Paul Junhyuck Kim has always been motivated to better the world around him.  The fourth-year biochemistry student has channelled his energy into contributing to the field of public health, and has proven himself to be a dedicated student, disciplined researcher and inspiring leader during his time at UVic.

After arriving at UVic, Kim quickly became interested in the experiential learning opportunities offered by the UVic Co-op Program. He successfully applied to the Biochemistry/Microbiology Co-op Program and secured his first co-op work term conducting research at the Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research (funded by the Centre for Blood Research). He made such a good impression as a researcher that he received a Science Undergraduate Research Award (SURA) from UVic, which allowed him to gain even more experience through his second work term at the BC Cancer Agency Deeley Research Centre.

 “My work term at the Deeley Research Centre was one of the first opportunities I had to create an impact in a field that I’m truly passionate about,” he says. Having watched people close to him struggle with the disease, he jumped on the chance to make a difference in leading cancer research.

Kim worked with Dr. Julian Lum at the Deeley Research Centre, where he conducted research involving lymphocyte infiltration in tumour microenvironments—research that could contribute to streamlining cancer treatments in the future.

Kim’s significant contributions have not only added a great deal of understanding on basic lymphocyte biology but also provided Lum’s lab with a strong backbone for future research grants. “Paul’s performance and work were nothing short of outstanding, and his contributions to the lab have been enormous,” says Dr. Lum. “He’s demonstrated outstanding passion, drive, commitment and integrity.”

For Kim, experiential learning has been a crucial aspect of his university education.   “Through co-op, I learned that the only way to bridge the gap between my university education and the fast-paced environment of a research lab was to work in that setting,” he says. “Applying my university education to groundbreaking research helped me to see the bigger picture of my degree.”

As a vocal proponent of co-op on and off campus, Kim is eager to continue building strong relationships and working on collaborative projects in future work terms.  “Working with inspiring researchers has developed me into a lifelong learner,” he says. “I am looking forward to creating synergies through co-op that will ultimately generate large-scale impact in the medical field.”

Paul was also named the 2016 Co-op Student of the Year for the Association of Co-operative Education BC/Yukon.

Nick Pineau

NICHOLAS PINEAU (Business)

Co-op Student of the Year – Business Co-op Program

Driven by a pursuit of excellence and an appetite for knowledge, business student Nick Pineau’s continued success in the UVic co-op program is no surprise. A fourth-year student specializing in entrepreneurship, Pineau has proven himself to be an outstanding example of a Gustavson student both in and outside the classroom.

Pineau chose UVic because of the promise of hands-on experience through the co-op program and was quick to prime himself as a competitive candidate for the positions he was interested in. He spent his first work term conducting treasury and risk management tasks with Elbow River Marketing in Calgary, Alberta. Next, he secured a position with Nexen working in accounting and finance, where he focused on variance analysis, budgeting and cost allocation in the oil and gas industry.

Demonstrating strength in analytical thinking and working within a team, Pineau impressed his colleagues with his high level of professionalism and his eagerness to engage with staff across the whole organization.

The co-op program has given Pineau hands-on experience in his chosen field, allowing him to start cultivating his career long before graduation. Moving from the oil and gas industry to the tech sector for his current co-op term with Redbrick, he’s had the valuable opportunity to diversify his experience – an opportunity that will give him an edge when applying for future work. “Working in diverse business environments throughout my co-ops has helped me build a network to rely on post-graduation,” he says. “ I feel infinitely more prepared for my future career.”

Outside of the workplace, Pineau has dedicated himself to encouraging student engagement in through a variety of university initiatives. He has used his natural leadership abilities to mentor fellow classmates with their job searches, organized workshops to contribute to students’ professional development, coordinated speaker series and assisted in business co-op events. 

“Overall, co-operative education has been extremely beneficial for my future career prospects and for my university education,” says Pineau. “I’m thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to demonstrate the skills I’ve learned in class in real-world settings.”

Anika Bell

ANIKA BELL (mechanical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Programs

A passion for environmental sustainability and renewable energy has led fourth-year student Anika Bell to new heights while studying mechanical engineering at UVic.

From completing a work term with the UVic ECOSat team—where she helped design a 1st-place satellite for the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge—to working on renewable energy projects with the Environment Department of the Vancouver Airport Authority, Bell’s co-op placements have offered diverse and enriching opportunities for hands-on learning. 

On her most recent co-op work term with the BC Ministry of Environment Climate Action Secretariat (CAS), Bell stepped into the role of Climate-Resilient Buildings Intern. Tasked with completing a climate risk and resilience assessment of a public sector building in BC, Bell far exceeded the expectations set out for her—she developed a novel assessment method and completed assessments for not one, but three buildings and building sites over the course of her four-month term.

“Anika’s impeccable work ethic, keen attention to detail and ability to produce quality under pressure, all while maintaining a positive and humble attitude, made her an invaluable member of the team,” says Bell’s supervisor Suzanne Spence, Executive Director of CAS.  “Her contributions are of lasting value to CAS, the owners of assessed buildings and more generally to BC public sector organizations interested in climate resilience in buildings.”

Bell credits co-op with enriching her academic experience, as it’s allowed her to diversify her studies in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without venturing outside the classroom. “The co-op program has allowed me to expand and personalize my education,” she says. “It’s provided me with a pathway to pursue my interests and demonstrated how I can interlace the field of mechanical engineering with my passion for climate action.”

Bell’s outstanding accomplishments have led to her being sought out for a fourth work term with BC Housing, where she is working to create a tool to assess their buildings for climate change resilience. 

“Designing for climate change resilience is a developing field, and one which I have been fortunate enough to work in,” she says. “Working amongst other environmentally-minded individuals has been incredibly empowering and inspiring—my experiences in co-op have encouraged my aspirations of finding an engineering career in climate action.”

2015 recipients

Ainsleigh Hill

AINSLEIGH HILL (physics and biochemistry)

Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Co-op Programs

Although Ainsleigh is only 19 years old, she has demonstrated a passion for problem solving and an aptitude for science well beyond her years. After graduating from high school at 16, Ainsleigh followed her love of math and science to UVic, where she is pursuing a degree in physics and biochemistry. For her first two co-op work terms, she joined the bioinformatics team at the BC Cancer Agency’s Terry Fox Laboratory, and immediately impressed her co-op supervisor Dr. Andrew Weng by teaching herself how to program in C++ and R within a week—skills that come in handy when the team analyses mass cytometry data for B Cell lymphoma using computer algorithms. Ainsleigh quickly proved herself able to brainstorm as an equal with the postdocs and bioinformaticians on the team. She is a natural problem solver and trailblazer; when a standard mathematical expression commonly used to measure data was yielding inappropriate values, she was able to modify the expression to remedy the issue—the new expression is now referred to as the “Ainsleigh index”. Her contributions to the team will earn her authorship on at least two papers next year.

Ainsleigh has been a champion of co-op, encouraging many of her friends to join the program. She credits co-op with helping her zero in on the possibilities of combining computer science with research. 

Francis Charbonneau

FRANCIS CHARBONNEAU (electrical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Programs

Francis Charbonneau has a passion for making the world a better place. The fourth-year electrical engineering student has made a point of completing six co-op work terms with organizations committed to sustainability and renewable energy. He has also demonstrated a commitment to community through his volunteering and extracurricular activities. His most recent two work terms were with SgurrEnergy as a Renewable Energy Consultant. In addition to managing projects assessing wind resource and power performance of wind turbine generators, Francis provided technical reviews of wind farm cabling, compiled risk matrix reports for various projects and was involved with assessing wind resources at proposed and operational wind farm sites. He did such a good job that he was offered a full-time position with SgurrEnergy after graduation.

An exemplary student, Francis has also been active outside the classroom. He has been a member of the men’s novice varsity rowing team, and is currently a co-director of sports with the Engineering Student Society. He volunteers as a Big Brother and encourages fellow co-op students to embrace job shadowing opportunities to learn the most about their possible career paths. 

Karley Skaret

KARLEY SKARET (business)

Co-op Student of the Year – Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Co-op

Learning through work experience was a key factor in Karley Skaret’s decision to attend the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. She knew that the mandatory co-op program would give her the opportunity to apply theory in real life workplaces, and with two co-op work terms under her belt, she has already learned a lot. Her first work term was with Calgary Wildfire Management, where she organized events to promote the Government of Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development and created an organizational system to track and manage the office’s promotional material. Last summer, she was hired as an office accounting clerk with RGO Office Products, but was quickly promoted to work on a strategically important business processes improvement project. Karley was tasked with mapping internal processes, reporting areas of improvement and developing solutions to help guide the strategic direction of the company.

Karley has also shown a commitment to giving back to the local community. She has volunteered with Soup Sisters, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and was the Vice President of the Young Women in Business UVic Chapter.

2014 recipients

Watch video: 2014 Co-op Students of the Year

GAËLLE MADEVON (commerce)

Co-op Student of the Year – Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Co-op

Recognized for her high academic achievement and excellent work term performance, Gaëlle approaches both her university and work life with resourcefulness and creativity. She spent her first co-op term as a research assistant with UVic’s Department of Psychology and her second with GlobalFest in marketing and communications. For her final co-op term, Gaëlle acted as a corporate communications specialist for Ledcor Industries Inc., where she worked on communications and marketing projects, oversaw logistics for several major media events, and implemented successful social media strategies to increase online engagement. Gaëlle also has a strong interest in community engagement and volunteering—she served as treasurer and marketing assistant for UVic’s UNICEF Club and currently represents western Canada’s JDC West Organizing Committee as VP of Academics, freelances as a social media strategist for technology start-ups, and acts as social media coordinator for W100 Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur (2012/13), Kelsey Ramsden.

SILVIA PENKOVA (mechanical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics/Statistics Co-op

Driven by a passion for continuous learning in her academic and personal endeavours, Silvia Penkova is known for her relentless work ethic and positive attitude. As a former Sea Cadet fascinated by ocean exploration, Silvia spent her first three work terms refitting submarines for the Royal Canadian Navy at Babcock Canada Inc. Her interest in the environment and green technology then led her to pursue a work term in the Industrial Engineering branch of the Department of National Defence. There, she worked on a wastewater treatment plant that allowed process water to be cleaned and returned to city sewage, resulting in less waste. Silvia is interested in materials engineering and is currently working on a research project categorizing the optical properties of Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride semiconductors.

 

TESI CARMONA WAGNER (biology)

Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Co-op Programs (all other programs)

Tesi Carmona Wagner has always been interested in animal behavior and wellbeing. For her first three work terms, she ventured abroad—she completed two co-op terms in Mexico researching birds in captivity and in the field and one in Germany through a German Academic Exchange Service internship, where she studied urban and rural blackbirds. Although she’d been primarily keen on the study of birds, Tesi rounded out her experience with a final 8-month placement as a research and animal care assistant in UVic’s Neuroscience Lab under Dr. Leigh Ann Swayne, where she managed and studied mouse colonies. Tesi’s natural curiosity and enthusiasm for science and research has made her a standout employee in Dr. Swayne’s lab, where she is still working. She has also undertaken many extracurricular activities related to her degree—she volunteered with the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre and Parks Canada and currently helps out at Rocky Point Bird Observatory. Tesi hopes to continue in academia and pursue her Master’s and eventually a PhD.

2013 recipients

Connor Bildfell photo

Connor Bildfell (BCOM 2013)

Co-op Student of the Year - Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Co-op

Connor completed three work terms over the course of his degree, including two as a staff accountant at KPMG LLP, and one as special events and activities coordinator at Corvallis Parks and Recreation in Oregon State. While working at KPMG, Connor was recognized for his exceptional work ethic and team building initiative, and spent his spare time volunteering for the Immigrant Services Society of BC, where he used his Mandarin to support recently immigrated Chinese families. Throughout his degree, this straight-A student was recognized with more than 12 UVic and external scholarships and awards and made an incredibly positive impression on his peers, colleagues, employers and Co-op and Career staff. Connor is currently enrolled at the UBC Faculty of Law. For more information about Connnor, see his convocation story.

Angus Rittenburg photo

Angus Rittenburg (mechanical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year - Engineering Computer Science and Mathematics/Statistics Co-op

Eager to embark on a wide range of workplace experiences, Angus has completed five work terms with five separate engineering companies, where he worked on electric bikes (Grin Technologies in Vancouver, BC), low cost cars for Africa (Mobius Motors in Kenya), rockets (SpaceX in Hawthorne, California), batteries (Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, California), and large scale robots (eatART in Vancouver, BC). Angus has selected work terms that allow him to contribute to positive change, whether that’s developing cleaner power methods, increasing safe transportation methods for rural communities, or stimulating socio-economic growth. He is known for his positive attitude and endless energy; in his spare time Angus has been an active volunteer with UVic’s ecoCAR and ECOSat teams.

Ross Prager photo

Ross Prager (microbiology honours)

Co-op Student of the Year - Optional and Professional Co-op Programs (all other programs)

Ross has leveraged his co-op experiences to explore the intersection of his academic studies and personal interests, and has impressed his colleagues and mentors along the way. His first work term was with St. John Ambulance Victoria, where he volunteered as a Medical First Responder in the community around Victoria. Next, his interest in neuroscience led to him to work in Dr. Swayne’s molecular and cellular neuroscience laboratory here at UVic, first as a volunteer and then on an NSERC funded work term. Ross is currently completing an honours thesis related to this research under Dr. Swayne’s supervision. Finally, Ross spent last summer as a paramedic with the BCAmbulance Service (BCAS) working in both rural and metro centers. He brought patience and humour to the position that saw him do everything from answering emergency calls in Vancouver’s east side to helping deliver a baby. His work experience has led him to focus on a future in healthcare, where he can combine his interests in the clinical, interpersonal, and research-related aspects of the discipline.

2012 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2012 are:

Read more about this year's winners in The Ring and check out the video below:

2011 recipients

In 2011, we were excited to award three students with the Student of the Year Award:

  • Erin Stead was named Business Co-op Student of the Year
  • Bernard Lambrechts was named Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Student of the Year
  • Jasmine Nielsen was named the Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Programs group

Check out what these students had to say about the impact of co-op in their lives:

2010 recipients

Check out the 2010 award recipients on our Youtube channel.

Each UVic Co-op program area will nominate a Student of the Year by October 31 of each year. To be eligible, students must have completed at least ONE co-op work term during the current calendar year. Nomination packages should consist of:

  1. A copy of the student's transcript
  2. A copy of the student's résumé
  3. A testimonial from an employer stating how the student demonstrated initiative and/or contributed to the workplace's organizational goals.
  4. A testimonial from the student outlining how co-op enhanced his or her career development, personal development and academic experience
  5. A testimonial from the student's co-op coordinator supporting the student's nomination.

For details about the nomination process, contact your co-op program office.